Friday, March 11, 2011

5 things to watch in ACC tournament Friday

GREENSBORO - Finally, the big names will roll into the Greensboro Coliseum today.

After the bottom of the ACC duked it out Thursday on the opening day of the tournament, No. 1 seed North Carolina, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Clemson will show off the best basketball the ACC has to offer in the quarterfinals today.

Here are five things to watch in the quarterfinal round:

1. Kyle Singler. By now, every college basketball fan who hasn't been locked away in a closet somewhere knows Singler is in a shooting slump.

The 2010 Final Four most outstanding player has missed 27 of his last 33 3-point attempts. Singler has bounced back before. After a 0-for-10 performance against Baylor in last season's regional final win, he totaled 40 points at the Final Four.

But this slump has been prolonged. Duke may be good enough to defeat Maryland today at 7 p.m. even if Singler doesn't shoot well, but the Blue Devils won't make much noise in March unless he regains his accuracy and confidence.

2. Clemson vs. Boston College. A lot of experts are regarding this as a play-in game of sorts for the NCAA tournament in the 2:30 p.m. game.

The Eagles have a high-quality win over Texas A&M on a neutral court and a road win over Virginia Tech and might still sneak into the tournament if they lose today. But Clemson doesn't have many impressive wins away from Littlejohn Coliseum and desperately needs one today.

ACC all-defensive team member Demontez Stitt's work for the Tigers against first-team All-ACC guard Reggie Jackson will be the key.

3. Harrison Barnes vs. Miami. Hurricanes guard Malcolm Grant vowed to find Barnes before he even gets into the arena for today's noon game.

North Carolina freshman forward Barnes scored five points in the final 69 seconds, including a game-winning 3-pointer, at Miami earlier this season. The Hurricanes must locate Barnes and get back in transition against the Tar Heels' formidable fast break to have a chance.

4. Chris Singleton vs. Virginia Tech. Will he play?

Florida State forward Singleton, a third-team All-ACC selection who is one of the conference's best defenders, is capable of taking high-scoring Virginia Tech forward Jeff Allen out of the final game of the day, which begins at about 9:30 p.m. But Singleton is listed as questionable after missing five games because of foot surgery.

Because Florida State has secured an NCAA tournament at-large bid, Singleton might be better off resting and saving his strength for next week.

5. Higher seeds holding serve. On the opening day of the tournament, the only lower seed that advanced was No. 9 seed Miami in overtime against No. 8 seed Virginia.

Can one of the lower seeds pull off an upset today? Virginia Tech seems to have the best shot. The Hokies defeated Florida State during the regular season, and even if Singleton plays there are no guarantees about his stamina or effectiveness.

And Virginia Tech, which needs one more big win to solidify its NCAA tournament resume, desperately needs a win while Florida State can afford to lose.

Ken Tysiac